Detective Jonathan Parker switched on the television and started surfing through the news channels. For the last thirty years that had been his ritual every morning. He had found some pretty good cases while reading newspapers or watching the news.
“A raid on drug lord Charles Braga gone wrong in central avenue today” The news reporter recited the sentence as a five year old would revise his lessons. Seriously, these guys needed lessons on speaking. Boring. Jon changed the channel and found out even more mundane stuff. He was about to turn it off when a particular show caught his attention.
‘Dr Andrew Perry found dead in his closed apartment with no wounds’ the headline showed. Jon had solved cases like that in the past and it shouldn’t have intrigued him that way, but it did and he couldn’t bring himself to switch off the television. He continued to watch the programme. The reporter continued his recitation “Dr Andrew Perry had been the centre of attention in the science and tech world, the man had come up with a drug that enabled a person to wipe out some one’s memory for a specified time. It was considered to be a break through discovery, one which could have an enormous effect on the future. Andrew was found dead in his room with the doors and windows bolted shut. There were no wounds on the body, no signs of suffocation and definitely no signs of poisoning”
A few years ago Jon would have had butterflies in his stomach at this very curious episode. But not now. The years had taken away his strength and even though he wasn’t really old enough, he was becoming more reluctant to field works. You could say he was becoming more lazy. He had been a private detective since a kid, of course he got the license much later. He had had enough of this. Murders ? Boring. Kidnappings ? Not fun. Robberies ? Let the bastards go away with the money. But he knew the call would come.
An hour later, inspector George Hill walked in the room. Early forties, he was pretty tall and walked with an aura of power and respect. He wasn’t the sort of man girls go head over heals for , but he was reliable and that meant more to Jon than being handsome. Jon thought of himself as the lady charmer. While the police department was filled with half wits and fools, George was a fish of a different kettle. He was more to Jon’s liking, quick to act and his every step was planned and reasoned. He was the best of the lot, and he came to Jon. This duo together had solved several cases putting good many men (and women) behind bars and preventing scores of criminal plans from unfolding. But that was the past when both were young, agile and strong. George was still the same powerful man that he was , but Jon’s physical strengths were declining. There at least was a stark difference between a professional police officer and a not so private , not so amateur detective.
“Good day Jon, how’s it going?” George asked
“I hoped you would not show up ” Jon said with loathing “I’ve had my fill, go find someone else”
If George was surprised, he managed to conceal it expertly.
“What? Have you been drinking early morn Jon”?
“Well why don’t you deduce that for yourself? I don’t want to solve no more homicides. It’s not interesting anymore. Murder bores me”
“Oh I don’t think so, this one is shrewd, it’s right up your alley” George was doing his best to get Jon to work on this one but he was having none of it.
“Oh they say that for all of them. It’s shrewd and cunning and perfect until..until Jon explains how full of shit their brains are” Inspector George hill chuckled at that. “Remember this George, no one commits the perfect crime. They always leave clues , damn them!” He secretly wished someone would commit the perfect crime, one which could not be solved, one which detective Jonathan Parker would not be able to solve.
He did not want to be involved in another murder case, but he was strangely pulled by this one. Part of him wanted to kick George out of the room, another wanted to hop out of the room and start the investigation. He was tempted to do the former, literally. He drew an image of him dragging George’s ass out of the room and smiled to himself.
For a moment George did not know what to say. It seemed as though he would turn around and walk back out the door, but he didn’t and he spoke.
“As you wish , but at least hear the facts”
Jon owed at least that much to his old friend.
“Fine, lay the facts”
“Well, this guy Andrew Perry recently discovered a drug-“
“That could erase memory yes.. I know all that. Tell me what happened today”
“Right, we found his body on the floor near the sofa. He must have been watching tv when whatever the hell happened. There were no wounds, no signs of strangling or poisoning, nothing that suggested a suicide. The room was bolted and there is no other way into the room except for the main door”
“How did you find out there would be a body there?” Jon asked.
“Oh that’s the interesting bit..”
Jon’s eyes lit up, he frowned.
“Someone left us a courier. When I ripped open the package, this is what I found inside a box” George unfurled and pushed towards Jon a paper.
It was a plain white A-4 and on it was printed the words “‘Andrew Perry. Dead in his apartment’
“What the hell? Why waste ink when you can simply call police?”
George pushed his lower lip up and shook his head. He always did it when he did not know what to say. He continued his narration.
“Also, it seems that his discovery is missing too. We couldn’t locate any sort of papers or chemicals that could potentially be linked to the memory erasing drug of his”.
Now Jon was really having the butterflies.
“Interesting, very interesting”
George smiled “Did you say you are ready to work on this?”
“Come let’s have breakfast” Jon said gesturing towards the table.
“Good, I am hungry now. Everything gets better with some food in the belly” George made himself comfortable on the dining table.
“So, tell me all you know about Andrew Perry” Jon said.
And so the two men sat on the table with breakfast laid for them, just like several times before. George began his tale as Jon sat opposite him eating chips.
“Well he lived alone in his rather lavish apartment. We don’t know how he earned enough to be able to afford such riches.We don’t know of any relatives yet and the neighbours say he had minimal human contact. Some of them don’t even know his name.” George said taking a bite from the chicken wings.
“Which floor did he live in?” Jon asked.
“Why? The third floor if I remember correctly”
“Balcony? Was there a balcony”
George shook his head.
“Isn’t it possible someone entered the room from the balcony” Jon tore a huge piece of the chicken.
“Yes, if he knew how to fly”
“Look when you’ve ruled out every possibility, whatever remains-”
“Is the truth, no matter how improbable. Yes yes I know that. But c’mon the only way someone enters the room apart from the door is either through the window or the balcony, both of them would require flying”
“You never know George. Anyways, where did he work. Lab, factory?”
“It seems he did all his experiments in his apartment itself. We found lots of chemical related papers, tubes, latex gloves, some common chemicals and other stuff in a room, presumably his home-lab” George reached for a glass of coke. “That is all we know about him”
“From what we know, one thing is clear. He was murdered for his drug. I hope it doesn’t fall into wrong hands”
“Amen to that”
“Let’s put the drug aside, how was he murdered?”. Jon had solved a lot of cases where the murder weapon had been missing but rarely had he racked his brains for the murder method. ‘Murder method’, is that even a term he thought. “What does the autopsy say?”
“Preliminary checking points to suffocation. The full autopsy report will take time”
“We assume for now that he was suffocated by blocking his mouth and nose by…?”
“The cushions. The sofa had pillow like cushions.”
“Cushions right” It occured to Jon he could actually have been poisoned. Some poison cause death by ashphixiation.
“Did you find a glass of water, or a bottle of juice or anything. Any sort of drink or food near the body?”
“Yeah there was a bottle of juice he must have bought from the store downstairs. We did not find anything unusual in it”
“What time did it happen?”
“About 2 in the night. Neighbours say he came back around 1:30. Also, someone heard another person entering Jon’s room somewhere at the time of his murder. He then walked out minutes later”
“Assuming no poisoning, this man enters Andrew’s apartment, suffocates him out using the sofa cushions, takes the drug and then moves out”
“That would be our theory”
“Only Andrew’s. He doesn’t have visitors around”
“Working on that”
There were more questions and more answers as the two men ate. Finally, George stood up , picked up his coat and left the building.
Jon sat where he sat often and lit up a cigarette. He wondered how the hell he got so involved in this murder when moments ago he had refused it blatantly. Jon was used to a lot feelings, but indecisiveness wasn’t one.
The sun was directly above Jon and George and was beating down with no mercy. You could almost fry an omelette on the bonnet of George’s car. They got out of the car and walked on the street towards Andrew’s apartment. Similar buildings stood on either side of the road. There was a sense of luxury attached to them. It wasn’t the sort of place where the common men like Andrew Perry dwelt. Or it could be that he wasn’t really a common man.
They kept walking for a bit untill Jon saw the usual yellow tape around the entrance, alerting people of crime scenes. When Jon first saw the building, he stopped midway in his steps. The place looked vaguely familiar. He tried to remember where he had seen it but could not locate it, the scene was located in the deepest trenches of his memory, blurred, misty. He realised George was waving at him a few steps away, towards the entrance.
Sall Jones of the local PD was waiting for them. She held a huge record in her left hand and a pen in the other.
“Name?” She asked as George passed by.
What a load of crap, Jon thought . She knew us and we knew them, she could just take his signature but she had to ask the name of each person entering or leaving the crime scene.
George signed and moved ahead.
“Name?” Sally asked Jon as he ducked under the tape. He shielded himself from a few camera flashes. Media is present everywhere.
“Barack Obama” Jon replied .
Sally smiled and put forward the record for Jon’s signature, she was used to Jon’s sarcasm.
All the formalities completed, they made their way through to the third floor, inspecting every bend, every corner for clues. They could not find anything of import on the staircase.
Jon did not like visiting crime scenes, especially murders. Even after the body being moved, the smell of death clings on to the room. And sure enough Andrew’s apartment smelt ominous. But there was something else too, a faint trace of chemical in the air.
They first entered the hall where Andrew’s body was found. In the centre of the room was the sofa, in front of it hung on the wall the television. Jon noticed the expensive furniture in the room, the exotic carpet and costly painting hung on the wall. He concluded Andrew Perry was a man of rich taste. But where did he get all the money from? George pointed to a few feet away from the sofa towards the television. A man’s shape was chalked out.
“He was found here”
Jon inspected the area. Andrew must have been a clean man; every object was meticulously placed in it’s position. It was the cleanest murder scene Jon had laid eyes on. He stooped low and observed the surroundings. Surely the killer must have left his mark somewhere in this room. He checked every corner, every inch of the room but was unable to locate anything. Twice he circled the room with and without magnifying glass, nothing.
“Looks like a professional work” Jon said and George nodded.
They entered the other room. It smelt of chemistry labs of schools, of all the chemicals mixed as one.You could say a chemical cocktail smell. It was filled with chemicals stacked on racks. The racks were aligned along the wall and chemicals were aligned on the racks in an orderly fashion. Elsewhere, the room was a mess. While the hall was barely touched, this room seemed as if the eye of a hurricane had passed through it. Gloves, test tubes, burners, tripod stands, spoons, beakers were littered all over the room. It was clear someone had scrapped this place out, looking for the drug. He searched the entire room and still wasn’t able to find any thing which could help solve this mystery. The rooms have been picked clean. It didn’t look like they could get anything out of the apartment.
But Jon persisted in the searchings, he was not going to return empty handed.
“We’ve searched this place Jon, there is nothing here”. Jon had almost forgotten about George’s presence.
Jon ignored him and proceeded to check the kitchen. It was as clean as the hall. All the years of experience led him to the dustbin tucked neatly towards the corner of the room. He dumped all it’s contents and rummaged through it. Amidst all the waste, Jon found a paper. Upon further inspection it turned out to be a metro ticket to central avenue.
“What is it?” George asked. Jon handed the paper to him.
George studied the paper for a moment, frowned and ended up shrugging.
“There is a huge drug store in central, he must have gone to get himself chemicals”
“Very well” Jon did not see anything wrong with that.
The two men then went to turn the whole apartment upside down in search of any pointer to help them in the murder of Dr Andrew Perry. In the end, all their efforts accounted for nothing as they set out of the building empty handed. In his entire career, Jon had seldom left a crime scene without a lead.
“Did you talk to the store owner?” Jon asked George as they walked out of the building.
George shook his head.
“Let’s go have a chat”
The shop was located a few steps away from the building. It was a small shop which catered to only the basic amenities of the people around it. The old man on the counter greeted the two men.
“We’re here to talk about Andrew Perry’s death” George said.
The man frowned. Jon had known people who frowned when lying or when nervous.
“Where were you yesterday at 1:30 AM? ” Jon asked.
The old man remained silent for some time. Is he even listening? Jon repeated his question.
“I was.. I was right here doing my job”
“Did he take anything from the shop?”
“Yes.. A bottle of juice I think”
“You gave him the bottle?”
“No. My assistant did”
“Where’s your assistant?”
The man again kept quiet. Jon repeated the question, only this time he fisted the table. He noticed the old man frowned whenever answering the questions. Was he lying or was he nervous? Jon’s instincts told him it was the latter. And he believed his instincts.
“I don’t know. He joined yesterday. Said he badly needed money and was willing to work at the lowest wage”. Jon gasped. There was another angle opening in the case now.
“What?” George cried. “Do you have any contact number, address, name?”
“He called himself Mark. I’m sorry but I did not take his number or address” The man said.
“Doesn’t matter” Jon intervened. “If what you say his true, he would have given a fake address or number. I’m quite sure that’s a phony name too. Let’s go George”
“Alright. We might need to talk to you again. Don’t go anywhere”
The two men walked out of the shop towards George’s car. The sky was beginning to redden on the horizon. A cool breeze was now blowing bringing much needed relief for the outsiders.
“Whoever came to Andrew’s apartment in the middle of the night did not come to kill him” Jon said.
“He or she came to collect his drug” George finished.
A lot of times Jon had solved the case by the time he reached home, but not today, not today.
As was his custom, Jon sat on the sofa facing the wall with a cup of coffee in his hand. He had developed this habit since his earliest days as a detective. He found the white walls the perfect companion; unspoken, unmoved , unfazed, non disturbing. It was almost midnight but he could not sleep. How could he sleep when a case remains unsolved ? He ran the whole murder sequence in his head.
Andrew Perry was on the brink of a break through discovery of a drug that could erase memory for a given period of time. He had returned late night to his rather lavish apartment from central avenue. He drank the poisoned juice he bought from the shop downstairs and died. Someone else came later looking for the drug and presumably he (or she) took it with him (or her). The poison has still not been detected, but Jon was certain that Andrew was indeed poisoned. There is only one suspect, the man who came to work at the shop, and he is missing.
Jon sat down for the better part of an hour; confused, agitated, tired. He tired easily these days. And somewhere he felt happy, happy that finally a near perfect crime has been committed. His secret wish was fulfilled. But it would be very un Jon like to leave the case here.
He continued to rack his brain, trying to fit the pieces together. Drug, memory, victim comes back late, central avenue, poison…central avenue. He stopped. Central avenue…central avenue, central avenue ! It hit him hard then, he had heard about the place in the morning. In the television. Police were tipped about a potential rendezvous of a drug smuggling gang at the place. The police raided but couldn’t find anything. Either the gang were alerted before hand or the police were tipped wrongly. Jon had a strong feeling it was the former. He was almost certain of it, certain of the fact that Andrew Perry was a part of this. He had somehow know it before.
That explains the lavish apartment. Andrew must have planned to smuggle the drug out on that night. He was supposed to get the remaining money (he must have got some amount in advance owing to his apartment and it’s riches) that night, but things did not go according to plan. He had to return mid way. And someone had come back to eventually take the drug. But then who poisoned him? Who was the man from the shop? Just when he thought he had reached the end, there pops up another clue.
This was the stage where all other cases Jon had touched were solved. It was like the end of the world for him, and he had come beyond it. There were many emotions playing out in his head. He was agitated, confused, tired, happy, sad. Jon sat at the sofa for a long time thinking and thinking and thinking.
He did not remember when he fell asleep. Bright light crept in through the window and blind sided him for a minute. He stood up, groggy. It was 7 in the morning and it was no use going back to sleep again. He freshened up and dialled George.
“Good morning Jonathon-“
“Cur the crap out George. Tell me about the autopsy”
“Nothing much. He had light food previous night and we could not trace any common poisons. Professional work.”
“Call records ?”
“He rarely called anyone. But there was a surge in the number of calls in the last week”
“I think I know why” Jon told him about Andrew Perry and Braga connection.
George remained silent, trying to comprehend the facts.
“That sure changes a few things”
“Yup. Call me if anything pops up”
“Sure”. The line went dead.
Jon needed more facts, more details about the doctor’s link with Charles Braga, the drug lord. He fired up his laptop on, you could always find somethings on the net. He googled ‘Charles Braga’. After about an hour of research he found that Braga had been smuggling drugs over the past three years. He was one clever guy. He sort of challenged the police, cutting drug deals right under their nose. Jon had half a mind to leave doctor Perry and go searching for Braga. Police had raided a few spots in the past , but it turned out to either be a red herring or well a red herring. Charles Braga liked playing with police. That’s the frailty of genius, it requires audience. That was all the internet told him. Nothing that could have helped him.
Jon was frustrated. He didn’t like this feeling, not knowing shit. He sat there for god knows how many hours. His entire cigarette case was empty. Jon turned into a chimney on days like these, but the chimney never blew this much smoke before. Agitation was at the peak. He could feel the walls closing in, he was suddenly feeling claustrophobic. He had went over and over the facts of the case and couldn’t find one opening. The only damn thing he was sure was that Andrew Perry was poisoned. He stopped. Poison.
He stood up abruptly, walked towards his book shelf and started searching. He felt stupid, he should have done this earlier. The book was placed as if someone had recently borrowed it. He took it out. ‘The Most Effective Poisons” the title read. How did I not see this earlier? He asked himself. Maybe because you were too involved in refusing the case? He also replied to himself. It was a thin book with a solid cover. Jon remembered how hard it was to get hold of this. But until now he had no use of it. But then again, until now he had had managed to solve all of his cases by this time. He opened the book and searched specifically for undetectable poisons. He turned page after page in search of that one poison. He stopped somewhere in the middle of the book. ‘SUX, Undetectable’ was the title of the page. Jon startled. The most fascinating thing about the page was not it’s textual content, it was a piece of paper folded and dug into the center. Jon plucked it out. There was something written with bright blue ink on the plain white paper.
Jon began to read. Dear Detective Jonathan Parker. Eyes bulged and jaws dropped, Jon continued reading. He couldn’t believe what he was reading.
I wanted to talk to you about the murder of Dr Andrew Perry. You might be surprised to read this if you haven’t solved the case yet. First some facts. Andrew had been working for the drug lord Charles Braga for quite some time. He had come up with a drug which could erase memory, which you would be fully aware of. But this was not his only find, he had in the past devised certain dangerous items for Braga. This drug however was his big breakthrough. All this I found on the day of his demise. On the night of his murder, he was supposed to deliver a sample of it to Braga. But the police were tipped by me and they were able to intercept, unsuccessfully, thanks to me again. I wanted the entire sequence to seem as if someone had come back, murdered him and taken the drug.
What really happened: I disguised myself and got myself a job in the shop near Andrew’s building. A little disguise and a bit of bleating got me the job. When Andrew came for a bottle of juice , I had mixed the SUX poison in it through an injection in the cap. It was me who murdered Andrew Perry. This man was fast becoming a danger. If left alive, who knows what he could have done with the drug or what Braga could have done with it. The man was a genius, but he had chosen the wrong profession. He could have gone on to invent something catastrophic for humanity. He had to be eliminated. And I did it and I don’t feel guilty.
After adequate time, I went into his apartment which was unlocked. I messed up with one of the rooms to make it look like someone searched for the drug, I actually retrieved it pretty easily. I replaced the poisoned bottle of juice with a fresh one, locked the room with his key and hurried back home. The drug is sitting in front of me right now. I’m gonna stop writing, put this letter in the book, place the book on the shelf and go to bed. But not before consuming the drug. I’d like to test if it really works.
PS: I got rid of a dangerous person and at the same time I also leave you, Jon Parker, an unsolvable case. Good luck with it!
Detective Jonathan Parker
Jon was spell bound. He read the letter again, and again, and again. He still couldn’t come to terms with it. The murderer of Andrew Perry was none other than Jon himself. All the agitation and the frustration dissolved now. He could not believe it. He could not believe that he had been chasing himself all day. He read the letter again. And then everything started to make sense. Why he had wanted to take the case in the first place. Why he had felt a sense of deja vu when he saw Andrew’s building. Why he felt he had known about Andrew being involved with Braga.
“Holy Crap” He shouted.
Jon had a thought to call George. But he let it go. Police involvement could land Jon in trouble. This was one case he had to let go unsolved. And so detective Jonathon Parker succumbed on his sofa not knowing what to feel ; Angry? Guilty? Sad ? Or perhaps a bit Happy.